The transcripts of the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. More…

  • Good morning. We'll take appearances first, please.

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours, opposing counsel. This morning for the Prosecution, Mohamed A Bangura, Maja Dimitrova and Brenda J Hollis.

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.00 a.m.]

  • Good morning, Madam President. Good morning, your Honours. Good morning, counsel opposite. Appearing for Defence this morning are Courtenay Griffiths CQ, myself Morris Anyah and we're joined by a legal assistant Ms Kathryn Hovington.

  • Good morning, Madam Witness. Sorry, Mr Griffiths, yes.

  • Madam President, before we commence I do have an application to make and the application is that we revert to the normal sitting hours. The application is made on behalf of all Defence counsel, the defendant and, relying on information passed to me by Mr Munyard, also on behalf of the shorthand writers and the translators.

    The history of the change to the sitting hours can be outlined briefly in this way: Several months ago I had a discussion with the Registrar and Mr Townsend in the context of the proposed move from the ICC to the STL and how best to make use of the facilities and possibilities there. And it was in that context that I suggested that we might revisit the sitting hours.

    My understanding was that that suggestion would be mooted with all interested parties, but clearly that suggestion was not discussed with certain important stakeholders such as the shorthand writers, the interpreters, and other court staff and consequently it came as something of a surprise to me when we were effectively presented with a fait accompli last week and put in a way which suggested that it was all my responsibility.

    But in our submission, it is now clear that these new sitting hours just cannot work. They will, in our submission, have a negative impact on the fair discharge of justice in this case.

    I note in particular that during the course of the proceedings yesterday afternoon, which I was observing by way of the LiveNote, that this witness was clearly fatigued in the afternoon and was unable to hold her head up, a matter remarked about by Mr Anyah during the course of his questioning of the witness. And it's understandable that the witness will be tired, because one has to bear in mind that the witness has to be up at or about 6 a.m. in the morning at the safe house in order to leave from there at 7.30 to be here for 8.15. That is an extremely long day.

    And my particular concern is this: One appreciates that the behaviour of a witness in the witness box whilst testifying is not only to be observed in terms of what the witness says, but also has to be observed in terms of the witness's demeanour and so on and clearly there is a real risk of the behaviour of the witness being misunderstood where tiredness might give rise to the suggestion or interpretation that the witness is being mendacious. So that is a particular concern, but it is also having an effect on the defendant. He has little time to collect his thoughts in the morning before being transported to Court and we therefore have little time to consult with him before the 9 o'clock start before the proceedings commence. And in proceedings of this complexity, ongoing consultation with the defendant is a very real necessity. Consequently, we are unable as a result if this regime were to continue to take proper instructions from the defendant.

    Counsel in the case have also informed me that they found yesterday's sitting very enervating, given its length. And I'm also told that the shorthand writers and the interpreters for whom accuracy and precision is paramount, requiring clear minds and the ability consequently to concentrate on the proceedings, and in those circumstances where their ability to provide us with accurate recall of the proceedings might be affected by fatigue in our submission the interests of justice are not served.

    So I can see that it was a mistake to make that suggestion, but I further suggest that there should have been a period of consultation before the change was implemented. We submit this will have an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings and, consequently, we should revert to the normal sitting hours. That is my application.

  • Mr Griffiths, frankly I personally must express a surprise at this kind of application for a number of reasons, and of course I will give the Prosecution an opportunity to respond. When the Registrar, through our head of office in The Hague, approached the Trial Chamber with a memorandum that showed clearly that the revised sitting hours were requested by the Defence, yourself in particular, and that the Prosecution had had a chance to respond and had made their own counterproposals, we were under the impression that this is something the parties have initiated and, as judges, we felt under an obligation to expedite the proceedings because this is one of the rights of the accused: The right to an expeditious trial. And you will recall that in my ruling I did point out that we've carefully weighed the starting hours vis-a-vis the ending hours of the day and that although we did recognise that the day was going to be longer by an extra half hour, this is something that everybody had to endure and pitch in in the interests of the rights of the accused.

    Now, the comments you've made in relation to stakeholders other than the Defence team and the accused I think in my view should rightly be made by the units concerned. Again the Registrar in putting the request before us had informed us that she would liaise with the court reporters and ensure that the normal two-hour sittings would be observed. This is the normal two-hour sessions that court reporters use normally or work, and that these would not be exceeded in any event per sitting and she assured the Court that any concerns relating to the overworking of the court reporters should not be the concern of the judges or the parties, but that this would be her personal concern.

    Lastly, the Chamber was of the view that the problems relating to the accused and his transportation from the detention centre had been considered - carefully considered by the Defence before making this request and that they had foreseen no real problems.

    Now, as relates to the current witness in the box, the judges are not blind. They could see that she was fatigued yesterday but this could have been for a number of reasons. She comes from a different time zone and it could well be that she was jet lagged. This doesn't mean that every witness who sits in that box is by reason of an extra 30 minutes at the beginning of the day going to show the same jet lag or fatigue and the less we do - we've listened to your submissions and I would now like to hear from the Prosecution.

  • Thank you, Madam President. It's the position of the Prosecution that of course any extra sitting time will expedite the proceedings and that is a good thing. When your Honours tell us to be here, we will be here.

    In terms of the issues raised by the Defence, we suggest that indeed this witness was fatigued yesterday but much earlier in the day. It was not the last half hour that seemed to cause that. And also the witness was told on more than one occasion by the Defence counsel that if she were too fatigued to continue she should raise the matter. She did not.

    In terms of meeting with the accused, as your Honours pointed out, travel times could be arranged and also of course they have the afternoons and evenings to consult with the accused. So we believe it is fully within your Honours' authority and discretion to set the sitting times. We do not think that one half hour a day is qualitatively different. It is longer, and we are basically in your Honours's hands as to the sitting times you wish us to observe.

  • Yes, Mr Griffiths.

  • Madam President, yes, we concede that the defendant has a right to an expeditious trial, but that trial must necessarily be fair. Fairness includes his ability to concentrate and fully participate in the proceedings. Any issues which might affect that aspect of his rights in our submission must trump any ideas about an expeditious trial.

    Now, so far as the other stakeholders are concerned, they have no one in this courtroom at present to voice their concerns, which is why through me I have made certain suggestions on their behalf.

  • Mr Griffiths, I did say the Registrar has already made submissions to the Chamber regarding the court reporters.

  • My point is this: Frankly, it's none of the Registrar's business. It's the judges' responsibility to ensure a fair trial. I'm not interested in what has gone on behind the scenes between the Registrar and the court reporters. If the court reporters are unable to properly discharge their function, that is a matter for the Court, for you judges, and not the Registrar who is not here to answer to any queries or suggestions we might make. So frankly, I'm not impressed with that suggestion.

  • Mr Griffiths, I don't think you're in order. The Registrar is the one responsible for the court reporters as a unit, not the Defence. Certainly not lead counsel. And I think those comments in particular relating to the Registrar's powers over the unit of Court Management are quite uncalled for. Now, you are free to respond or reply to any of the comments by counsel opposite before we see the way forward.

  • Before I come to that, the Registrar in relation to the shorthand writers, standard in a relationship, of employer and employee. She has no responsibility for the fair discharge of justice in these Courts. That is why in my submission the comments I have made about her role are fully justified. In our submission, the arguments we have raised as to why we should revert to the normal sitting hours are well made, they have a foundation in fact and reality, and in consequence we would submit that that is the proper route which your Honours should take.

  • Mr Griffiths, may I ask how you are in a position to speak for the court reporters?

  • Because Mr Munyard yesterday canvassed their views. It's that simple.

  • Very well. The judges will consult. The judges will deliberate on the application and submissions and revert to you in the course of the day.

    In the meantime, we're going to proceed with the evidence. Mrs Kallon, good morning. Is the interpreter in place?

  • Yes, your Honour.

  • Mrs Kallon, you are going to continue with your testimony this morning. I remind you of the oath that you took yesterday to tell the truth and that oath is still binding on you today. Is that clear?